lineup included: creating web portals, identification cards and handbooks for
members; recruiting and hiring personnel to manage their care; and developing
In the case of the organization’s US$800 million “KanCare” Medicaid contract in Kansas, the team had just six months to complete all work ahead of an
immovable 1 January 2013 go-live date set by the Kansas Department of Health
and Environment. The state increased some requirements on the fly, but the
PMO still completed the project on time, says Dana Poole, PMP, director, GBD
account management, WellPoint, Virginia Beach, Virginia. “We never failed a
readiness review,” says Ms. Poole, who was an assistant vice president in the
PMO until May 2014.
To keep project teams motivated in high-stress environments, practitioners
were encouraged to connect with financially challenged Medicaid members
who could benefit from their work. “Every single one of us had experiences
going to members’ homes, understanding the challenges in their lives,” Ms.
Poole explains. “That supported a passion for delivery—going live on time with
all requirements met.”
ver the years, WellPoint Inc.’s project
management office (PMO) has reinvent-
ed itself to strengthen the organization’s
project culture and drive rapid strategic
growth. Joe Hashemi, PMP, saw that trans-
formation firsthand. Now director of change management
for WellPoint’s government business division, Mr. Hashemi
worked in the PMO as both a project manager (2004-
2008) and assistant vice president (2012-May 2014).
I’ve worked in a handful of PMOs at Fortune 500 companies, and have seen some disbanded because organizations didn’t see the value of the PMO. We differentiate
ourselves by being extremely customer-focused; we view
healthcare plans in different states as the customer.
During the PMO’s overhaul, we decided we didn’t want
to be a check-the-box operation, a PMO that just builds
schedules and asks if you’ve completed things. We really
dove in to help the business owners facilitate solutions, so
much that we became integral to how things got done.
We tried to not get so stuck on process, methodology
and forms, to avoid being considered rigid. We unrolled
processes in phases, because you don’t want to force a
methodology before an organization is mature enough
KNOWLEDGE VS. WISDOM to handle it. So we slowly progressed with the organization, teaching people the value of project organization along the way, to the point where
senior leaders were speaking project terminology.
Eventually we understood that the cultural
shift of project management was as important as
the principles of project management itself. If you
don’t integrate the project culture into the corporate culture, you can have the best practices in the
world, but you’re not going to be successful.
There are hundreds of valuable tools available in A
Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
(PMBOK® Guide). But on any given project, you may
only need certain components. And that’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom: Wisdom is
knowing which components from the toolkit to apply to
add value, and when. This wisdom helps us to be viewed
as a streamlined, efficient arm of the organization to the
point where people were asking us to do more projects
than we really had the capability of doing. And senior
executives really wanted to sponsor projects.
Looking back at the PMO’s successes during the
last five years, what I’m most proud of is being part
of the team that transformed opinions about project
management in the organization. Today, the PMO is
considered essential to the organization’s profit and
growth. To go from zero to hero, basically, was an
Joe Hashemi, PMP
one of us had
challenges in their lives.
That supported a passion
live on time with all
—Dana Poole, PMP, WellPoint,
Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA